Untouchable Topics

In response to my recent “Writing for Christian Magazines” post, Diane asked, “What subjects will the Christian market never, ever touch?”

Christian magazines are becoming more willing every month to tackle the real blood and grit of being a Christian. They’ll print articles on pornography, Harry Potter, or sex before marriage as long as you handle it carefully. (And I think you might have given us a good idea for a future post on how to handle the hot button issues when writing for Christian magazines.) They recognize the need to address what people are really struggling with.

But to answer your question on what topics Christian magazine editors won’t touch . . .

(1) Arguments That Get Nasty: These topics are always changing. Pornography used to be an untouchable topic because the common belief was that no man who was really a Christian would look at porn. The writer might have needed to find a new church (and change their identity). Now, many Christian magazines are running regular features on it because they’ve realized that close to half of Christian men do struggle with this sin. Homosexual ministers is one topic today that I couldn’t see most Christian magazines being willing to deal with. The fallout could sink them.

(2) Topics With A Loose Tie-In To Faith: I might be able to sell an article about good stewardship involving proper care for animals (one of my personal soap box issues), but I probably couldn’t drop Proverbs 12:20 (“The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.”) into an article about “how to safely travel with your pet” and expect it to sell. If I want to write about pet care in detail, I need to write for secular magazines.

(3) Divisive Topics: Denominational magazines want you to be sensitive to their doctrine, but they don’t want you to bash someone else’s. Magazines aren’t the place to try to win someone away from their denomination and into yours. Christian magazine editors will welcome articles on witnessing to other religions however. There’s a big difference between dividing the family and trying to bring people into it.

(4) Complicated Theological Material: If you need a degree to understand it, they don’t want it. Those types of articles belong in scholarly journals or textbooks. Christian magazines want their mature readers to be challenged and grow, but they also don’t want to be completely inaccessible to new Christians or non-Christians. I once tried to sell an article that had Hebrew in the working title . . . you won’t find that one in any archives.

(5) Fringe Views: Do you want to argue that swearing is okay for Christians? How about writing an article on why circumcision should be banned? (I couldn’t make that one up–there’s a man in San Francisco trying to get enough signatures on a petition to get that passed as a law.) You might be convinced you’re right. You might be able to make an incredible argument. But you’ve crossed the line from edgy into impossible if an editor reads your query letter and asks themselves, “Who is this nutter?”

As long as you don’t transgress into one of those categories, with the right pitch you can sell almost anything to Christian magazines today. Christian fiction still tends to be more conservative, but even that tree of the Christian market is branching out.

Have a question for us? Send it in, and you might see it answered in a post as well.


**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.


2 comments on “Untouchable Topics

  1. Bravo Marcy and Lisa for even touching the topic of what is untouchable in publications serving the Christian subculture. An interesting take on the current scene.

    I’m not convinced that with the right pitch you can sell almost anything to Christian magazines today, but I’ll cheer for you as you try.

    Would be great if you could post some of your “edgier” articles here for us to see examples, with some comments about how and why you used particular angles.

    Great to see you both launching this blog, go for it.

    Wendy Nelles
    Co-Founder, The Word Guild http://www.thewordguild.com

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